Options for contaminated site cleanup

Under Washington law, you can clean up a site contaminated by hazardous waste with or without Ecology's supervision. 

If you choose independent cleanup, you can clean up without our input, or you can request fee-based assistance through our Voluntary Cleanup Program. You can also request one of Washington's other technical assistance programs: Pollution Liability Insurance Agency's Program's (PLIA's) Heating Oil Technical Assistance Program (HOTAP) or PLIA's Petroleum Technical Assistance Program (PTAP). Use our Agency Determination Checklist to determine which one your site is eligible to use.

If you're cleaning up a heating oil site, please note that these are now managed under PLIA's HOTAP.  If you have an eligible non-heating oil petroleum tank system site, these cleanups are managed under PLIA's PTAP. For more information about PLIA's programs, please contact pliamail@plia.wa.gov or 1-800-822-3905.

For all cleanups that we supervise, cleanup schedules are negotiated with us and cleanup plans go through public review and Ecology approval. There are two options for Ecology-supervised cleanups. The options are based on the type of legal agreement you enter into with the state and whether your liability is settled. A consent decree settles your liability to the state and provides protection from third-party contribution claims, while an agreed order does not.

Under Washington's cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act, you have four options for cleaning up a hazardous waste site.

Flow chart showing the two primary administrative options for cleaning up sites: 1. Independent and 2. Ecology-supervised. Independent cleanups branch into two more options: 1) Cleanup with no Ecology consultation, 2) Cleanup with Ecology consultation through VCP, HOTAP or PTAP. Ecology-supervised branch into 1) Cleanup without settlement through Agreed Orders and 2) Cleanup with settlement.

Under Washington law, hazardous site cleanup can be done independently or under our supervision.

Independent cleanup

Under this option, you clean up contamination independently without a legal agreement. You can do this on your own or with fee-based consultations with us by joining the Voluntary Cleanup Program. We offer technical assistance and opinions on the sufficiency of your cleanup.

Is my site eligible for an independent cleanup?

You might choose independent cleanup if:
  • Your site isn't already in the cleanup process with us under an agreed order or consent decree.
  • You aren't already negotiating an agreed order or consent decree with us to cleanup your site, unless:
    • You provide us reasonable notice and we agree with your independent actions; and
    • The independent actions you propose don't pre-empt or foreclose the ongoing negotiation or the selection of a cleanup action.
  • Your cleanup site isn't related to heating oil. If it is, please use the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency’s (PLIA’s) Heating Oil Technical Assistance Program
  • Your cleanup site isn't eligible for PLIA's Petroleum Technical Assistance Program
  • For more information about PLIA's programs, contact pliamail@plia.wa.gov or 1-800-822-3905.

How do I know which program I should apply to?

Use our Agency Determination Checklist to determine which one of Washington's three technical assistance programs is most appropriate for your cleanup site: 1) Ecology's VCP, 2) PLIA's HOTAP, or 3) PLIA's PTAP.

Important points

Whether you clean up your site on your own, or through the Voluntary Cleanup Program, neither option:
  • Settles your liability with the state.
  • Provides protection against third-party contribution claims.
However, when you join the Voluntary Cleanup Program, we will write a letter stating your independent cleanup is complete when it meets requirements under state law, known as a "no further action" opinion. This opinion can be helpful when you want to obtain a bank loan using the property as collateral or are selling the property.

Ecology-supervised cleanup

Under this option, we supervise your cleanup under an agreed order or consent decree. That means we negotiate schedules with you, and plans are reviewed by the public and Ecology before becoming final. With our supervision, you will know your cleanup meets the requirements under state law when it is complete.

What's the difference between an agreed order and a consent decree?

A consent decree settles your liability to the state and provides protection from third-party contribution claims, and an agreed order does not.